Anyone who grew up in a large family knows what it is like to live on a limited snack-food budget. When I was a child, I imagined that my mom had a snack food rating scale that she carried with her to the grocery store. She would consult that scale as a discernment aid in selecting which snacks would accompany her to our kitchen pantry. I suspected that it was a simple “1” to “10” rating system. Those snacks that no one but dad could eat would be rated a “1” (e.g. sardines, various pickles, etc…). A “10” would be reserved for those rare, but serious snacks made possible by recent advances in chemistry: “Twinkies,” “Ho Ho’s,” “Ding Dongs,” and “Suzie Q’s.”
There was one snack food that required the addition of an “11,” or even a “12” on the Snack Food Scale: that glorious combination of jelly, pastry, and frosting known as the “Pop Tart!” My brothers and sisters and I were convinced that if Jesus would have become incarnate in the Twentieth Century, He would have overlooked plain old bread, and selected the PopTart as his vehicle for transubstantiation. We knew with certitude that when we died, the first meal served to us in heaven would feature Pop Tarts as the main course.
My mom learned the hard way to avoid bringing home any snack food item that occupied the territory rated at a “7” or above on her snack food rating scale…especially Pop Tarts. Anyone who has been to an oceanfront beach has seen what happens when an unsuspecting child throws a tiny morsel of food to a lurking seagull. Immediately two hundred of the gull’s most intimate friends descend on the bewildered child with rapacious beaks, claws and feathers. After experiencing this Alfred Hitchcock-like moment, the child learns to never so much as offer a single Cheetoh to another bird. After experiencing a couple Pop-Tart induced feeding frenzies, my mom avoided bringing home anymore of these coveted snacks to her own brood of seven sea gulls.
But in this world, occasionally, the laws of nature bend. I can recall that day when I interrupted my bike ride and returned home to tend to a rumbling stomach. As if I were on the set of a Twilight Zone episode, inexplicably, the house was vacant….it was just the snack food cabinet and me. I surveyed my options. There, next to the soda crackers was a familiar looking wrapper… “It can’t be!”…”I’m seeing things”…and yet, there it was. I reached my trembling hand inside and discovered that in addition to Aquinas’s five proofs of God’s existence, I had discovered a sixth. And it was frosted. And it was cherry. And it had those delightful colored sprinkles all over it. I held in my unworthy hand, the majesty of a single Pop-tart miraculously overlooked by my seagull siblings.
I quickly spirited it away to a lonely place and settled in for uninterrupted ecstasy. I slowly broke off tiny bits of the confection and placed them one-at-a-time on my tongue. Every effort was made to stretch out and savor this rare episode of berry flavored-carbohydrate heaven.
During the Easter season, Christians acknowledge the magic that is knit into the fabric of our post-resurrection world. Despite all the slings and arrows flung at us by the world, for those with eyes to see, Easter grace has a way of subtly appearing when we least expect it. Around every corner the resurrected Lord is attempting to hand us an unexpected experience of Easter grace.
A useful Easter skill for moments such as these is well known to any child who has just discovered an overlooked Pop Tart. We need to “STOP,” “DROP,” and “SAVOR.” The art of momentarily dropping everything and savoring the grace of a particular moment has a way of embedding that grace more firmly into our souls. Over and over again in the Easter narratives, the disciples needed Jesus to show them that He was no figment of their imaginations. In the same way, stopping and savoring a grace that has arrived into our lives, has a way of making it more real for us. Our savoring helps us to really appropriate the grace that is ours. When we engage in a regular discipline of STOPPING, DROPPING and SAVORING, we develop evermore-sharpened senses to experience more grace in our lives.
Thousands of times a day in this world, a child with a room full of toys will announce to his parents, “I’m bored.” Thousands of times a day in this world, men and women will drive home past sunsets, rainbows, and stunning landscapes. Trapped in the maze of their obsessive thoughts, they will miss the opportunity to savor the artwork that surrounds them free of charge.
This Easter Season is a time to break ranks with these colleagues. Now is the time to develop those Easter disciplines of noticing the myriad moments when the resurrected Christ arrives with a special grace in His hands wrapped up for you if you will take the opportunity to stop, drop everything, and for one shining moment…to savor.
(The following exercise is based upon an ancient practice that Saint Ignatius Loyola called, “The Examen.”
STOP…whatever you were doing
DROP…whatever else you were thinking about, carve out two minutes, and ask the Lord to surface for you those times throughout the last day when God’s grace has been present to you or present through you to another.
SAVOR… .When an experience surfaces, relive it for just a moment, letting yourself savor and appreciate the past moment of grace. See if you can stay with the “savor” part of this exercise until a smile comes to your face.
Conclusion…End in a prayer of thanksgiving, prayerfully surveying the rest of your day. Ask God: “Where will there be an opportunity to open myself to your grace this afternoon/evening/morning?” Resolve to live in that grace when the moment comes.
Do Not…allow this exercise to degenerate into an exercise in perfectionism, or self-criticism. The focus here is on savoring God’s grace, not on the quality of your activity. Should you encounter a way in which you were oblivious, or closed to God’s grace in a moment of your day, take time to have a compassionate laugh at yourself.
A New App for an Old Technology…If you have a smart phone, set your alarm to go off at the same time every day to alert you that it is time to “Stop, Drop, and Savor.”
In the last day…when was someone GOOD to you in a small way? (When were you good to someone else? (Example: a cup of coffee made for you? A chore done? Someone let you in on the highway. A clerk recognized you and greeted you warmly.)
When was someone LOVING to you in a small way? When were you loving to someone? (A small mistake you made was easily forgiven. A co-worker really wanted to know how you’re doing. A smile seemed really genuine. A spouse or friend called to say, “hi.”)
When in the last day did you or someone else act in TRUTH or INTEGRITY in some small way? (Did you enjoy a favorite piece of poetry, or meditational reading? Your friend or family member’s self-reflection benefited you. Your self-reflection benefited someone else.
When did you experience BEAUTY? A newly budding tree, the cardinal’s song, dandelions (not in your yard), sunrise, artwork, a favorite picture, song on the radio…